Growing a small or midsize company is hard work. There are many obstacles and complexities that come with growth. And leadership is the key to taking your business to the next level. If you do not maintain strong leadership throughout the entire company, growth can easily come to a halt.
SAP’s monthly TweetChat, #SAPSMBChat, is a discussion designed to help entrepreneurs and small or midsize business owners build a simpler path to growth. Our most recent TweetChat featured guest Hernan Marino. Hernan, a senior vice president at SAP, is passionate about helping small and midsize businesses run simpler. Brian Moran, an expert on entrepreneurship and navigating the SMB marketplace, helped co-host this #SAPSMBChat.
The topic for this #SAPSMBChat was “Leadership In Growth Companies.” We focused on the topics of how to build trust with employees, how leaders can manage the complexities that come with business growth, and keys to successful mentorship of up-and-coming leaders. Below is a transcript of our conversation with Hernan.
SAPSmallBiz: What is the state of leadership in business today?
Hernan Marino: Companies are seeing incredible changes taking place in economies all over the world today. There are fundamental changes taking place at leadership levels. Some companies, such as SAP, are very proactive in developing and maintaining strong leaders. Other companies are struggling to keep up with the new way to lead.
SAPSmallBiz: Who are some of the great leaders in business today? Why are they great?
Hernan Marino: We are fortunate to have one of the best leaders in business today with our CEO, Bill McDermott. Bill walks the talk. It doesn’t matter whether you are an Account Manager or Executive at SAP, Bill is there for you. Another leader I admire is Bill Gates. He shaped the IT industry and the way we interact with computers. Bill Gates has also dedicated his life, and wealth, to making the world a better place. Pope Francis is a great leader who has led by example since day one. Leaders in business can learn from the lessons of Pope Francis, for example about the virtues of charity and modesty.
SAPSmallBiz: In today’s global marketplace, change is constant. How can leaders navigate twists and turns on the road to success?
Hernan Marino: Leaders should have a plan that they share with their teams. Everyone should be on the same page. When it becomes necessary to change the plan, the leader informs the teams and they make the changes. A leader must keep his or her team all moving in the same direction towards a common goal – even when plans change.
SAPSmallBiz: How can leaders build trust with employees while navigating uncharted waters?
Hernan Marino: Leaders build trust in tough times by being confident and communicating with their employees. There is nothing worse than having a leader who lacks confidence when times are tough. The employees will panic. Employees will remain loyal if they know a leader can lead them through difficult times. People want to work for winners.
SAPSmallBiz: As a company expands into global markets, how can leaders manage the complexities that come with growth?
Hernan Marino: The key is to delegate responsibility smartly to team leaders in the various global markets. You cannot spread yourself too thin across global markets and expect success. Different time zones, languages and local cultures all add to the complexities of running a global company. Find the best leaders, train them well and let them help you build your business.
SAPSmallBiz: In 2020, millennials will represent almost half of America’s workforce. How do you develop millennial leaders?
Hernan Marino: Similar to training leaders across global markets, find millennial employees who demonstrate great leadership potential. Provide millennial leaders with access to mentors in your company who can work with them. Give them responsibility early and often—allowing them to learn how to lead.
SAPSmallBiz: Can a leader also be a mentor to his or her employees? Is it ok to mentor some but not all?
Hernan Marino: Yes – most leaders are mentors, and it is ok to mentor some but not all employees. You want to provide mentorship to employees who express interest in taking on more responsibility. Successful companies hire the best employees and retain them through engagement and mentorship.
SAPSmallBiz: Tell us about sustainable leadership and how someone can remain a trusted leader in changing times.
Hernan Marino: Trust your people to make independent decisions on serious matters and you help them grow their confidence. Never hesitate when faced with a difficult decision or circumstance. Listen to your advisers, but ultimately trust your “frontier” instincts and take action.
SAPSmallBiz: Hernan, what are some of your favorite quotes on leadership?
Hernan Marino: “To lead people, walk behind them.”; “True leaders see the opportunities in every difficulty rather than the difficulty in every opportunity”; and “Spend all the time doing the talking, and you will do nothing but confirm your own biases and prejudices.”
SAPSmallBiz: Any final thoughts or words of wisdom for leaders today?
Hernan Marino: Be confident and communicate regularly with your teams and team leaders. Make sure your plan is up to date and that you share it with your team. Keep your eyes open for changes that may affect your business and your plan. Run Simple.
For more tips on ways to develop leaders, see 4 Ways To Develop Millennial Leaders.